Alexis Morgan's sizzling paranormal Paladin series continues with a courageous female warrior who can't resist the man of her dreams even if he is her sworn enemy....
A fiercely beautiful female leader from the Other world, Lusahn q'Arc can't forget the Paladin warrior she met in battle his chiseled body and piercing, thoughtful eyes still haunt her dreams. While investigating the smuggling of the mysterious blue stones used to light her shadowy world, Lusahn receives word that her missing brother, Barak, is alive and working with the Paladins. Although angry at his betrayal, she arranges to meet him. But at the appointed time it is not Barak who arrives, but Cullen Finley the enemy warrior who torments her memory.
Intense attraction immediately burns between Lusahn and Cullen despite their rival loyalties, and they can't help surrendering to passion. Their time together is limited, though, for soon Cullen must return to his own world with or without Lusahn. But when carefully laid plans go awry, together they must fight to keep their forbidden romance a secret and keep each other alive.
About the Author
Alexis Morgan has always been an avid reader, and she loves spending her days with hunky heroes and gutsy heroines. She’s published more than forty books, novellas, and short stories, including contemporary romances, American West historicals, and paranormal romances. She has been nominated for numerous industry awards, including the RITA© from the Romance Writers of America, the top award in the romance genre.
Read an Excerpt
Redeemed in Darkness
By Alexis Morgan
Pocket StarCopyright © 2007 Alexis Morgan
All right reserved.
The barrier shimmered and stretched thin, its beautiful cascade of color giving way to streaks of sickly light. Lusahn shared her brother Barak's ability to read the barrier's moods and knew it would fail soon. Very soon.
She drew her sword, its familiar weight grounding her against the emotions threatening to shatter her control: anger, grief, and a deep sense of betrayal that made her blood boil.
Barak was alive.
Alive, but living and thriving among the enemy. The evidence of his treason was a note he'd written and tossed across from the enemy world into hers. By the laws of her people, he was condemned, only awaiting the swing of a sword to carry out the execution. Her sword, her duty. Her brother.
She closed her eyes.
She had grieved over him when he'd sought out the light of the other world, knowing that it meant certain death at the hands of Earth's warrior clan. Yet as she'd mourned his passing, she'd at least understood it.
Glaring at the note in her hand, she once again read Barak's angular scrawl, asking for a brief meeting at an appointed time, asking that she cooperate with the enemy for the sake of both of their worlds.
He had to know that she would be waiting for him, sword in hand. Her first duty as a Sworn Guardianwas to protect their people, even from themselves. And with their parents both gone, defending the family honor was her duty. At least they'd been spared knowing of their son's treason. No matter what pressures had driven him into the light, she would not, could not, forgive a betrayal of this magnitude.
Barak had been considered truly blessed in their world because of his affinity with not just the blue jewels that gave them light, but with stones of all kinds. A gift as strong as his came along perhaps once in a generation.
How could he live among the enemy, when his own world needed him so badly? When she needed him? What had he found in that strange place of light that had ensnared him?
In her mind, she saw the warrior whom she'd fought on her single crossing into the light. She and the three members of her Blade had followed the trail of stolen blue jewels across the barrier with the intent of dragging the thieves back to stand trial for their crimes. Unfortunately, the Paladin warriors had already executed the traitors.
She and her Blade had hoped to return to their world without incident, but they'd run into two of the enemy at the edge of the barrier. She'd signaled her Blade to occupy the green-eyed devil while she took on his companion.
Even now she could remember the power with which her opponent had fought. With his dark eyes blazing, he'd dazzled her with his sleek moves. His bigger friend fought her Blade with brute strength and muscle, but this one had danced with lethal grace and beauty.
Her warrior heart had admired his skill; her woman's body had admired him on a whole different level. More often than she cared to admit, the human had revisited her in dreams. She shook her head. Now was not the time for such thoughts.
The barrier flickered again, almost but not quite failing. She moved closer, ready to face her brother one last time. Her soul ached with the pain, but she would do her duty. It was all she had left.
Cullen Finley had a decision to make. Among his fellow Paladins, he was nicknamed "the Professor" because of his calm, thoughtful demeanor. If he did what he was contemplating, though, his image would change forever. As would his life.
He studied the envelope in his hand for the umpteenth time, unable to read more than one word: Lusahn. The rest was written in an alien language. But he knew the woman the name belonged to -- enough to whet his appetite for more.
He had to be out of his freakin' mind.
Sure, someone had to deliver Barak's message to his sister, asking if she'd be willing to call a truce long enough to solve the mystery of who was smuggling the blue stones from her world into his. Ever since someone had told the Others that they could buy their way into this world with blue garnets, they'd been pouring across the barrier in ever-increasing numbers.
Far too many Others had died, learning too late that the Paladins' swords were all that awaited them here. He'd killed his fair share; they all had. And the constant fighting had taken its toll on the Paladins. Even though their genetic makeup allowed them to come back from the dead, it did so at a terrible cost.
If things continued so, there wouldn't be enough Paladins left to mount a defense against the crazed Others. Someone had to stem the tide of invasion, or swarms of the bloodthirsty bastards would run free in the streets, out of their minds and killing anything that moved.
Barak had planned to meet with his sister himself, but he'd been faced with a nightmare of a choice: save the human woman he so obviously loved, or wait at the barrier to confront his sister. It had taken Barak less than a heartbeat to choose. After scribbling a note to Lusahn, he'd asked Cullen to throw it across the barrier, the same way they'd delivered the first letter asking for a meeting. Then he'd charged off to rescue Lacey Sebastian.
Which brought Cullen back to his own situation. Lusahn -- he'd never forgotten their encounter. She'd left him with a small scar on his face, a much bigger one on his ribs, and her image burned into his brain.
The barrier was weakening again, the vibrant colors fading away. He had hoped that it would hold long enough to give the rest of the Seattle Paladins a chance to rest. After restoring the barrier when it had failed, they'd spent the entire night digging Barak out from under tons of rock. From what Lonzo had told him, the Other had sacrificed himself to give Lacey's brother time to get her out of danger.
Barak's injuries had been serious and someone should let Barak's sister know why he couldn't come. Just that quickly, Cullen made his decision. He would hand-deliver Barak's message to tell Lusahn why her brother wasn't there. The only question was whether she would let Cullen live long enough to explain.
He hoped so. She would doubtless carve him into little pieces for even thinking such a thing, but he very much wanted to taste her passion. The idea had him grinning as the barrier disappeared with a flash of light, bringing the shadow world beyond into view.
And then there she was, her pale angry eyes glancing around before finally focusing on Cullen. She wore her dark, silver-streaked hair in a waist-length braid. Her black tunic and close-fitting pants outlined her lithe figure in exquisite detail. The impact of her stark beauty slammed into his chest, making it difficult to breathe.
With a nod, he sheathed his weapon and stepped forward. Her blade came up to rest against his throat just as the barrier flickered back to life, cutting off his avenue of retreat. Cullen smiled and wondered if he was about to meet his fate or his future. Holding out the envelope, he waited to find out which it would be.
Her chin came up a notch and her eyes narrowed. "Where is he?"
Her words were heavily accented, but intelligible.
"Last night, he was injured badly enough that he couldn't be here. Before that happened, he wrote you a message." Cullen slowly raised his hand with the envelope in it.
Lusahn glanced at it long enough to read the message Barak had scrawled on it, her mouth set in a grim line. "Open it."
He did as she ordered, careful not to make any sudden moves. His close-up view of her sword told him that it had been honed by a master's hand. One slip this close to his carotid artery, and he'd bleed out before she could summon help -- if she would even bother. More likely she'd wait until the barrier flickered again, and roll his dead body across for his friends to find.
He eased the letter out of the envelope and slowly brought it up for her to read. As her eyes moved swiftly down the page, he didn't need a translator to read her body language. The woman was seriously pissed, and getting more so by the moment -- which didn't bode well for him, since he was stuck in this world until the next time the barrier went down.
Her silver eyes, so like her brother's, studied the paper for several seconds before turning back to Cullen.
He said, "I know I'm not who you expected, but that doesn't change anything. We need to stop the theft of the stones. Can we talk?" He held his hands out to the side, palms up, trying his best to look harmless.
She kept the sword firmly against his neck. "I didn't come here to talk. I came to execute a traitor."
He'd known she might be angry that her brother had chosen to live with the enemy, but hadn't thought she would come after Barak with deadly intent. He felt obligated to speak in Barak's defense.
"Barak has told us nothing of your world, nor has he aided us in any way that would bring your people harm. He wants to stop the theft of blue stones as much as we do."
Barak had guarded his secrets well -- unless he'd let something slip to Lacey Sebastian or Laurel Young. He was as much a mystery today as he had been when he'd first crossed the barrier and risked his own life to save Laurel's.
"He has chosen the enemy over his own people." Bitterness and anger underscored every word.
"I can't argue about that. But I do know that your people are dying in bigger numbers, and so are my friends. You can kill me instead of your brother, but that will only add to the bloodshed."
She stared at him in silence, as if to measure his worth. Finally she eased the blade away from his neck far enough that he could swallow without fearing the motion would kill him.
"Paladins have always killed my people. Why do you care how many die?"
It was an honest question that deserved an honest answer. "It is my job to defend my world with my sword and my blood, just as you defend the people of this one with yours. That doesn't mean I enjoy killing."
In fact, he'd killed until his muscles and soul ached from the pain of it all. As resilient as Paladins were, eventually they did die, usually with a shitload of poison shoved in their veins by the very people they were born to protect. No one had ever questioned the constant cycle of fighting and death, because the Others crossed the barrier out of their minds and with weapons drawn.
Until Barak. The bastard could swing a sword with the best of them, but he was no crazed killer any more than Cullen was. Lusahn might not see it that way, though, having once faced him in battle.
"Do you remember me?" The words slipped out.
Her hand touched the side of her face where a small scar marred her otherwise-perfect skin. "Is that why you came? You thought I would show mercy because we once danced in battle."
No, he'd come because he wanted to dance with her in a way that involved the two of them getting naked. Now probably wasn't the best time to mention that.
"I thought if you recognized me, you'd let me live long enough to explain what we wanted."
"And if I don't care what you want?" The sword moved closer again, but clearly she did care. It was there in the pain showing in her beautiful eyes, and in the fact that she hadn't killed him.
"We have to do something to fill the time until the barrier goes down again. We can talk, or..." He let his eyes journey down the length of her long, lean body, taking his time and enjoying the trip. When he got back to her face again, he smiled.
Her pale skin flushed pink, although that could be temper rather than interest in what he'd been offering. Then she frowned.
"We would have to talk a long time, Paladin. The barrier will be up for most of the next moon cycle."
How long was a moon cycle? On Earth, it was a little more than four weeks. Here, he had no way of knowing.
"How do you know it won't go right back down? It's been unstable for weeks."
"I was born with the same ability as my brother to know such things."
That sneaky bastard! Barak had never mentioned that little fact. And he'd been working with Lacey Sebastian, who was trying to find a way to predict the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that usually preceded the barrier's failing. Devlin would find Barak's talent most interesting -- if Cullen lived long enough to tell him.
He carefully turned his head to look back at the barrier. Its bright colors were back to full strength. Son of a bitch, she was probably telling the truth. And here he was without his toothbrush, or even a clean change of underwear.
"So how long is a moon cycle? A month? A day? A week?"
She scrunched up her nose, looking adorable as she calculated the time. "Two of your weeks, maybe a little less or more."
He glanced around the shadowy passage they stood in. "Then I guess I'll make myself comfortable here and wait it out."
Lusahn rolled her eyes. "And live on what, Paladin? You would either starve to death or die at the hand of my Blade on their next patrol."
He crossed his arms over his chest and widened his stance. "I'm open to suggestions, Lusahn."
His use of her name startled her. She stepped back, letting her sword fall to her side, and stared at him as if really seeing him for the first time.
"Cullen. Cullen Finley. It's nice to see you again, Lusahn." He held out his hand, wondering if she would respond to the overture.
She stared at his hand as if it were a snake ready to bite her. Finally, she shifted her sword to her left hand and reached out to let her fingers brush his. It was enough to send a flash of heat through to the core of him, and she felt it, too, judging by the way she instantly jerked her hand back.
She glanced around as if looking for something, then turned back to him.
"You cannot remain here, Cullen Finley, but I can't take you with me looking like that. Stay out of the light until I return." She looked at his tan cargoes and bright red T-shirt with disapproval. "I will bring you something else to put on."
"Where will you be taking me?" Not that it mattered. He'd live longer following her than he would wandering around by himself.
"Does it matter?" she asked with the first hint of a smile. She sheathed her sword and walked away into the shadows where the light of the barrier faded into darkness.
The energy that had been buzzing through him faded away as soon as she left, and the air around him felt colder. He looked around for an out-of-the-way spot where he wouldn't be an easy target if someone else happened by.
After studying the surrounding cavern, he decided it looked natural rather than hand-carved out of the surrounding rock. Most of the areas where Paladins fought were man-made, although the Missouri installation was located in a large limestone cave.
He finally found a well-shadowed place to sit where he could watch for Lusahn's return without being out in the open. After laying his sword within easy reach, he pulled out his deck of cards and started shuffling. It was too dark to play, but the repetitive motion was soothing.
Unfortunately, it left his mind free to drift. How long would it take for someone to notice that he'd disappeared? Would they guess where he'd gone? They'd worry, and he regretted that. The Paladins he fought and died with were like brothers to him, and Dr. Laurel Young, the Handler who took care of them when they were injured, worried too much about them as it was. Devlin Bane, her Paladin lover, would kick his ass from one end of Seattle to the other for adding to her burden.
Yet he couldn't regret his decision; his gut feeling was that he'd done the right thing by coming here. Maybe, just maybe, he could make a difference. Either way, he would have tried.
He let loose a huge yawn, a reminder of how long it had been since he'd last slept. As tired as he was, he wouldn't be fit to defend himself if he was discovered. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to close his eyes. For a few minutes he listened to the soothing buzz of the barrier, and then there was nothing.
The muted sound of footsteps startled Cullen awake. How long had he been asleep? He grabbed his sword and watched the shadows until Lusahn stepped out of the darkness, a bundle in one hand and her weapon in the other. He moved just enough to catch her eye. Was that relief he saw flash across her face? She was too far away for him to tell.
He tucked his cards back in his pants pocket and stood up with renewed energy now that she was back. After sheathing his sword, he walked toward where Lusahn waited, drinking in her warrior's grace. Oh, yeah, he'd made the right decision. And he had a moon's cycle to convince her of that.
Lusahn dropped the bundle of clothing on the ground at the human's feet. "Put these on. The shirt and pants should fit. You'll have to wear your own..."
She lost the word she was looking for at the sight of Cullen stripping off his shirt. His skin was smooth and golden, his muscles flexing as he moved. Unlike the men of her world, he had a dusting of hair on his chest that trailed down to disappear into the waistband of those odd pants he wore.
She forced her gaze down to the floor, away from all of that skin that her fingers itched to touch. As soon as she reached his feet, the word came back to her. "Shoes. You must wear your shoes. At least they are the right color."
Something that she'd said made him laugh as he picked up the trousers she'd brought. "I guess black is a color. I've never seen anyone from here wear anything but black or gray."
His comment stung. "You would insult our ways?"
His smile disappeared.
"I meant no insult, Lusahn. We've never known if all of your people wear black and gray, or if it's a uniform."
His dark eyes were difficult for her to read, but now was not the time for doubts. By letting him live this long, she'd already committed herself to keeping him that way until she could decide the right course of action.
"We can't stay here much longer. Finish changing so we can go."
When he reached for the fastening on his pants, she felt her face go hot and turned away, pretending to be standing watch. As a Guardian, she had served alongside men for years. It was nothing for her and her Blade to strip in front of each other, but they were her kind and of her world.
This Cullen Finley disturbed her in ways she didn't understand. She kept her eyes firmly focused away from all of that warm golden skin. The only normal thing about him was his dark hair, although he wore it cut too short for her taste. And those dark eyes looked at her with too much curiosity and far too much heat. His gaze had a weight to it that she'd never felt before, as if he could caress her with merely a glance.
She frowned, not quite understanding what he meant. Although all of the Guardians learned the rudiments of the human language, the subtleties were difficult. If he meant he was again dressed, why didn't he say so?
"Wrap your things in the bag and put on the cloak I brought."
When she heard him pick up the sack, she turned back to face him. The dark clothing suited him -- maybe too well, from the way her body was reacting. Obviously she had been too long without a lover if she found this human so desirable. Lately her life had been too complicated to allow time for seeking out a partner. Maybe once she returned this Cullen to his world, she should make time.
"I am taking you to my home. Do not speak to anyone, or we both risk death."
She reached out to pull the hood of the cloak closer to his face. "Keep your eyes down. They are too dark, and your hair is too short."
He grinned at her. "Is there anything about me that you do like?"
She was not about to answer that. "If we walk unusually fast, we will only draw unwanted attention. The same if we walk slowly."
"How long will it take us to get there?"
"Long enough. I'm going to check to see if the patrol is coming. Come when I call."
He had his hand on his sword. She didn't blame him. If they were attacked, it would take both of their weapons and a miracle to keep them both alive. She studied the man in front of her, wondering what about him made her want to take such risks. She had others who depended on her, whose welfare should come first.
But she'd always had a weakness for lost causes. And a human alone in her world definitely fell into that category.
"I won't be long."
Cullen fought down the surge of excitement that hovered inside him. Was he the first of his kind to see more than just this small stretch of rock in this world? If he'd been thinking straight, he would have brought along a digital camera. The Regents wouldn't allow the pictures to be seen outside of the organization, but he wasn't the only one who wondered what about the Others' home drove them to abandon it in such numbers.
He would keep his eyes and ears open and learn all that he could. It would help if he spoke the language, but he didn't, and two weeks wasn't enough time to learn it. How had Lusahn and her brother learned English? Another question he'd never thought to ask Barak.
"Come, Cullen Finley." Lusahn motioned him to follow her.
He hurried forward and fell into step beside her, noticing he didn't have to shorten his stride in order to walk comfortably with her. He was a shade over six feet tall and guessed that she was probably less than two inches shorter. Good. He liked women with long legs.
"Just beyond that turn, we will be leaving the caves. That is when we must be careful."
His hood had slipped back slightly, so he pulled it forward. It restricted his peripheral vision, but secrecy was more important.
"Thank you for taking me to your home."
She shot him a quick glance. "Wait to see if we live long enough to get there."
Then they rounded the corner, and he abruptly stopped at his first sight of Lusahn's world.
Copyright © 2007 by Patricia L. Pritchard
Excerpted from Redeemed in Darkness by Alexis Morgan Copyright © 2007 by Alexis Morgan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
"Captivating, compelling, and totally hot!" Alyssa Day, USA Today bestselling author of Atlantis Rising
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ever since Paladin Cullen Finley crossed swords with a beautiful female Other, he hasn't been able to stop thinking about her. Then he discovers that she's Barak's sister and they need her help to stop the flow of blue stones from her world into his. Getting trapped in the Other's world wasn't part of the original plan but getting to spend time with Lusahn makes it all worth it. But Lusahn is taking great risks to hide Cullen and her honor means everything to her. Readers have spent the last three books getting brief looks into the mysterious Others but now we actually get to see their world and better understand the reasons they're trying to cross into the human world. I really enjoyed Redeemed in Darkness for the complexity it adds to the series as well as for the characters. Cullen is known as The Professor to the other Paladins but he isn't being logical when he steps over the downed barrier. Instead he's taken over by his attraction to Lusahn but he quickly proves that his reckless actions might be the only way to get answers. I loved Cullen's steady nature, his deeply held honor, and his surprising compassion for the enemy. He might have seen the Others as monsters before but the more he learns about them the more he sees the people they really are -- a proud race called Kaliths who are struggling to survive while their sun dies out. Of course, it helps that he has the hots for Lusahn because he's not always so accommodating of the male Kaliths he comes across. For Lusahn's part she's baffled by Cullen and doesn't quite know what to do with him. She remembers him from the fight months before but they're sworn enemies and Lusahn, always a rule follower, knows her duty dictates she turn him over to the Guild Master. I was beyond excited to see a female warrior since Paladins are only men. Lusahn is a deadly beauty who can take care of herself and the two orphaned children she's taken in. She's very conflicted over hiding Cullen but she's also desperate to stop the theft of light from her world. The chemistry between Cullen and Lusahn is on fire but I do feel like they accepted each other and moved past prejudices really fast. I do have to say I would have liked a bit more tension over falling in love with the enemy.
I liked that we finally got a glimpse of the alien world but I did end up wanting more with book four. I liked that Barak's sister did come into the plot of the book series, but it left me wanting more. Not sure of what though. Having her join the cast of characters in the series as well as knowing the war isn't black and white anymore should keep the series going well.
Check out the margins! Otherwise a good book.